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Ben Stiller - Biography

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Ben Stiller
Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images

Born:

November 30, 1965

Ben Stiller Overview:

Ben Stiller was destined to be in showbusiness, having been born to showbiz parents. Though he started out as an actor, primarily, it wasn't long before his comedic short films caught the attention of several TV networks, leading to various -- but short-lived -- sketch comedy projects. In the '90s, Stiller came into his own as both a leading man and as a director, which paved the way for his massive box office success in the 2000s, when he became one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Though he has branched out into indie and dramatic films, Stiller has never forgotten his comedy roots, and continues to pursue his own projects while still starring in major tentpole Hollywood releases. He has never lost his sketch comedy mentality.

Quick Ben Stiller Facts:

  • Ben Stiller was born was born and raised in New York City to famous showbusiness parents: Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara, a famous comedy duo performing under the name Stiller and Meara.
  • He began performing comedy in the mid-'80s, but his first love remained filmmaking and sketch comedy.
  • He made his film debut in Steven Spielberg's 1987 film Empire of the Sun.
  • He was a writer and featured performer on Saturday Night Live during the 1989 season, but left the show after just five episodes.
  • In 1992, Stiller got his own sketch comedy series, The Ben Stiller Show, on Fox. It lasted less than one season, but won an Emmy award a year after being canceled.
  • In the 1990s, he became a star both in front of and behind the camera, directing movies like Reality Bites and The Cable Guy and starring in box office hits like There's Something About Mary.
  • Stiller became one of the biggest box office stars of the 2000s, thanks to a string of hits including both the Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents franchises. His films have grossed over $2 billion worldwide.

Ben Stiller The Early Years:

From a very young age, Ben Stiller demonstrated an interest in filmmaking. He attended film school at the University of California, but dropped out after nine months. In the late '80s, Stiller began getting regular movie roles (always in supporting parts), but continued to pursue his own projects. A 1987 short film he made, The Hustler of Money (a parody of The Color of Money in which Stiller played Tom Cruise for the first of many times) attracted the attention of Saturday Night Live, which aired the film and hired Stiller as a writer and featured performer in 1989. His time there was unhappy, and he left after five episodes. From there, he moved to MTV, where he made several short films and eventually got a deal to produce and star in his very own sketch show.

Ben Stiller and The Ben Stiller Show:

Stiller's relationship with MTV led to the network greenlighting The Ben Stiller Show, consisting of comedy sketches and pop culture parodies. It was canceled after just one season, but led to another incarnation of The Ben Stiller Show on Fox in 1992. The critically acclaimed sketch comedy starred Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk and featured Judd Apatow as a writer and producer. The show's time slot was changed several times and was canceled after only 12 episodes on the air (13 were made). Ironically, the show won the Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program in 1993, after it had already been canceled and taken off the air.

Select Ben Stiller Filmography:

Ben Stiller, Director:

In addition to being one of the most successful comedian movie stars of the 2000s, Stiller has developed quite a career as a director as well. His first Hollywood feature behind the camera was 1994's hipster comedy Reality Bites, in which he also co-starred. After that was 1996's The Cable Guy, which quickly gained notoriety for star Jim Carrey's $20 million payday (he was the first star to command such a fee), then disappointed at the box office thanks to its too-dark tone. It wasn't until 2001's Zoolander that Stiller scored his first bona fide hit as a director -- a success he would repeat seven years later with Tropic Thunder, in which he also starred.

Additional Ben Stiller Facts:

  • In addition to his many starring film roles, Stiller has made cameo and bit appearances in a number of films, including Happy Gilmore (starring Adam Sandler), Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Orange County and more.
  • Stiller is married to actress Christine Taylor, best known for playing Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie and his co-star in 2001's Zoolander.
  • Stiller was awarded the MTV Generation Award at the 2009 Movie Awards.
  • A talented mimic, Stiller is known for his impressions of Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Cruise, all characters he played repeatedly on The Ben Stiller Show.
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